Connecting the 'Breath' with our Pelvic Floor and Core - an exercise to try.
Pilates and Breathing go hand in hand.
Learning some new breathing skills was the easy bit.
Now we must find our dreaded pelvic floor and core.
The ‘breath’ in Pilates is used to assist us in activating our pelvic floor (PF) and transversus abdominis (TA), the deepest of our abdominal muscles. PF and TA are like cousins, they hold hands and go to the dairy together for ice-cream! Sometimes they are naughty, and they do not do their chores first and sometimes they are plain lazy and forget to do any work at all!
We need these two muscles functioning 24/7 and as with our breathing, we do not want to have to tell them to work, we want them to do so without prompting. They are our whispering muscles, meaning we want them working at a low level so that they can keep up their jobs all day. If we jam them on like we are doing a 1 rep max bicep curl, they will not be able to function and provide support across the day.
Let’s see if they are awake!
We are going to do this one sitting. Sit on a firm chair towards the front edge.
Lean forward at your hip joint so your bottom bones lift a little, resting your hands on your thighs. I need your focus to be in your pelvis region.
Imagine you have a straw in your mouth.
Now jump into the centre of your body.
Take a breath, sucking slowly on the straw.
Let the air release.
Repeat a few times.
Can you feel it? This feeling of ‘something’ lifting from the region of your pubic bone and moving up. At the same time, you should feel your pelvic region draw in and deflate resulting in a tightness across your pelvis (like the bones of your pelvis are being pulled in tighter by a belt). This is your PF and TA being good cousins and doing their chores together! The 2 muscles always work together, so when you contract your pelvic floor, your TA should contract too and vice versa.
It is also important your bottom is not joining the party. Pay attention and make sure that you are not squeezing your bottom and your pelvis is not tucking. The PF and TA are ‘internal’ muscles that provide support and stability – THEY do not create any movement at all.
Now let’s combine them with the breathing pattern. Inhale slowly and as you exhale you want to ‘gently’ engage your PF (TA should tighten too). We need these guys to work in all sorts of positions and situations, so practice sitting, standing, lying, waiting in line at the supermarket, at the traffic lights – anywhere and everywhere. The good news is, once we have woken them up again (and after a little bit of practice) they should start to do their job and work without prompt.
Phew, that’s the hard part done. Grab your cousin and let’s take a stroll to the shop, PF in tow for that ice-cream!